Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
Planning · Environment · Real Estate

Events Guidance Publications Awards Contacts

Surface Transportation Environment And Planning (STEP) Cooperative Research Program FY 2006/FY 2007 R

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Planning, Environment and Realty's (HEP) Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP) ended on September 30, 2012. For current HEP research information, please see HEP's MAP-21 research web site.


FHWA Publication No. FHWA-HEP-08-016

Table of Contents

  1. Chapter 1: Introduction and Overview of STEP Program
  2. Chapter 2: Feedback from STEP Stakeholders
  3. Chapter 3: Research Activities
  4. Chapter 4: Research Highlights
  5. Chapter 5: Benefits and Lessons Learned
  6. APPENDIX A: STEP Emphasis Area Contacts
  7. APPENDIX B: Summary of Feedback

Chapter 1: Introduction and Overview of STEP Program

This report provides an overview of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Surface Transportation Environment and Planning (STEP) Cooperative Research Program accomplishments, stakeholder outreach and feedback, and research activities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 and FY2007. This report includes an overview of the STEP program and lessons learned in its implementation.

OVERVIEW

Section 5207, Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program, of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established a new cooperative research program for environ-ment and planning research in Section 507 of Title 23, United States Code, Highways (23 U.S.C. 507). The general objective of the STEP program is to improve understanding of the complex relationship between surface transportation planning and the environment.

SAFETEA-LU authorized $16.875 million per year for FY2006-FY2009 to implement this new program. However, due to obligation limitations, recissions, and the over-designation of Title V research in SAFETEA-LU, $11.914 million of the $16.875 million authorized was available in FY2006 with similar amounts in future fiscal years. STEP is the sole source of funds to conduct all the FHWA research on planning and environmental issues. In addition, the U.S. Congress mandated several special studies and STEP will be the funding source for those projects. STEP will also address priorities identified in the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Research and Development Strategic Plan (Section 508 of Title 23 U.S.C.)

STEP funding, even in combination with other SAFETEA-LU research funding sources, is less than what was available to the FHWA in prior years for planning and environmental research. On average, the FHWA had $27.1 million available per year for planning and environmental research for FY2003-FY2005 (including earmarks and designations). Thus, STEP funding represents an approximate 39 percent reduction in the FHWA's environment and planning research funding resources. This means the FHWA will have to make difficult choices among the many competing needs for planning and environmental research and will not be able to fund all worthy research.

The U.S. Congress mandated that the Federal share for research funded under Title V of SAFETEA-LU, including STEP, be 50 percent. While this will not apply to contract funding, it will apply to STEP research funded through cooperative agreements and grants.

Section 507 of Title 23 U.S.C. identifies certain characteristics of STEP regarding program content and administration. Regarding the program content, STEP may include research to:

HOW DOES STEP WORK?

STEP is a multi-year program authorized in Section 5207 of SAFETEA-LU. It is the primary source of funding for the FHWA's surface transportation environmental and planning research.

STEP funds support ongoing and new nationally-focused, applied, and basic research efforts. Funds are leveraged with other sources, including those from other Federal agencies, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), future Strategic Highway Research Program, pooled-funds, and foreign jurisdictions. Funding is awarded through a variety of competitive procurement mechanisms, including broad agency announcements, grants, cooperative agreements, indefinite quantities contracts, and interagency agreements. The U.S. Congress mandated that the Federal share for research funded under Title V of SAFETEA-LU, including STEP, be 50 percent. This match applies to grants and cooperative agreements. It does not apply to contracts.

The FHWA administers STEP in cooperation with various stakeholders. Stakeholders are involved in developing, funding, and carrying out research efforts.

Each fiscal year, an announcement is published in the Federal Register requesting suggested lines of research for the STEP program. Stakeholders submit feedback regarding STEP research. Contact persons have been identified for each STEP research emphasis area (See Appendix A). STEP emphasis area contacts lead the coordination and development of research initiatives that are recommended for inclusion in the various STEP plans. The Associate Administrator for the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty approves the annual STEP plans, which are subsequently posted on the STEP Web site. The annual STEP plans reflect the result of outreach and stakeholder feedback.

The emphasis area contacts lead the implementation of STEP research within each emphasis area. These contacts work with staff and other partners to implement the program. STEP partners and stakeholders include Federal, State, and local entities, foreign jurisdictions, private entities, and research organizations. Peer review--and input from partners and stakeholders--is solicited in project development and in review of selected reports and publications. There is an ongoing process and outreach is completed to incorporate partner and stakeholder input and feedback in priority setting and spending decisions.

Technical working groups and other informal stakeholder groups, including Federal and State partners, are involved in the process both to identify and follow specific projects and to review results related to several initiatives, including global climate change, travel model improvements, eco-logical grants, traffic noise model development, transportation planning capacity building, bi-national border activities, and outdoor advertising control. STEP research is also coordinated with other national research programs to ensure that there is no duplication of research efforts.

In both FY 06 and FY 07, the STEP was implemented along the following timeline:

Winter

Implement current fiscal year STEP plan via appropriate procurement methods, agreements and partnerships. (May shift depending on appropriations)

STEP emphasis area contacts lead implementation of STEP research within their emphasis area. They work with staff and other partners to implement the research projects and ensure coordination between projects funded in previous fiscal years.

Spring

Refine STEP implementation strategy, goals, emphasis Areas.

The FHWA solicits feedback on next fiscal year through a Federal Register Notice and updated Web site information.

Conduct outreach for next fiscal year by emphasis area, review research needs and identify gaps.

Spring/Fall

Analyze feedback and develop priorities for and fund critical research.

Develop next draft fiscal year STEP Plan that reflects results of the outreach and stakeholder feedback.

Fall/Winter

The Associate Administrator for the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty approves the annual STEP Plan.

Post current fiscal year plan on STEP Web site. (May shift depending on appropriations)

STAKEHOLDERS

STEP stakeholders are numerous and diverse. Stakeholders have been categorized according to the following three tiers:

Tier I - Federal Agencies and Tribes:
Tier I stakeholders may include such agencies as the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Energy, Interior (DOI), and Housing and Urban Development. Other Federal Government agencies include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Within each of these agencies many discrete organizations and programs with an interest in STEP exist, including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management within the DOI. Within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the FHWA partners with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on virtually all planning and environmental work, including research. The FHWA also coordinates with the Federal Railroad, Aviation, Maritime, and the Research and Innovative Technology administrations, as well as the Office of the Secretary of Transportation on global climate change and other issues. There are also over 500 federally recognized Native American Tribes, which have a major interest in research affecting their planning and environmental needs.
Tier II - State and Local Government:
State departments of transportation (State DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) have a major interest in environment and planning research, as the research affects national policy and can also provide important tools, information, and training to meet the day-to-day needs of these agencies. In addition, local government units, including transit operators, county public works departments, and city transportation departments, depend on national environmental and planning research. State and local environmental and natural resource agencies and State historic preservation officers have a strong interest in planning and environmental research too. There is also a growing interest by State and local health agencies in transportation planning and environmental research as it relates to health impacts of the surface transportation system.
Tier III - Nongovernmental Transportation and Environmental Stakeholders:
Within the transportation and environment sectors, there are hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of non-governmental stakeholders, such as the American Automobile Association, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the American Highway Users Alliance, the Surface Transportation Policy Project, the Defenders of Wildlife, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the Sierra Club, the Conservation Law Foundation, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Planning Association, the League of American Bicyclists, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the International Right-of-Way Association, the National Alliance of Highway Beautification Agencies, and others too numerous to specify here.

Chapter 2: FEEDBACK FROM STEP STAKEHOLDERS

The STEP program outreach is ongoing and is undertaken through several venues, including meetings, workshops, conferences, e-mails, and publications.

Fiscal Year '06 was a transition year for the STEP program due to delays in the reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU.

The STEP feedback system and STEP Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/step/ were established upon completion of SAFETEA-LU to solicit STEP feedback and to provide information regarding the status of the STEP. Some 800 comments were received via the STEP feedback system and were utilized in the development of the FY2007 STEP.

The figures that follow display the breakdown of comments received that pertain to the broad program areas and those concerning the individual emphasis areas.

A pie chart, showing the distribution of Feedback by program area for fy 2007; General Comments 9%; Environment 75%; Planning 11%; Tools to support environment and planning 5%

Distribution of Feedback by Program Area (FY07)

Distribution of Feedback by Individual Emphasis Area (FY07). Click image for source data.

Distribution of Feedback by Affiliation Type*
Affiliation Type N %
  800 100
Federal16020%
State25031%
Local405%
National Association486%
Private Sector7610%
Research/Academic10814%
Individual Citizen304%
Other8811%

* Note that individual stakeholders selected their affi liation types, but the Web-based STEP feedback mechanism defaulted to "Federal." The data have been reviewed, and in cases where a stakeholder mistakenly listed his or her affi liation as "Federal," the information was changed to select the appropriate affi liation type.

Distribution of Feedback by Tier
Affiliation Type N %
Tier I16020%
Tier II29036%
Tier III35044%

Appendix B provides a Summary of Feedback that was received regarding the FY07 STEP.

Chapter 3: RESEARCH ACTIVITIES

STEP emphasis area contacts and program staff identified research activities for FY06 and FY07 based on input from stakeholders and FHWA priorities.

The tables below list the FY06 and FY07 research initiatives.

Emphasis Areas Related to Environment

Air Quality and Global Climate Change
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Evaluation and Dissemination of Conformity Best Practices $150,000 
Diesel Emissions Reduction Research $150,000 
Mobile Sources Air Toxics (Court Settlement) $840,000 
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (in FY07: "Developing Strategies and Improved Information for Future Project Selection")$490,000$225,000
Global Climate Change Center (in FY07: "Support for Climate Change Center Research")$250,000$350,000
Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse $178,000 
It All Adds Up to Clean Air $315,000 
Testing, Evaluation and Validation of New Emission Model $200,000
Research on Conducting Project Level Analysis of Particulate Matter (PM) Emissions $150,000
Survey and Assessment of State and Local Climate Change Activities, and Transportation and Dissemination of Research and Best Practices $150,000
Literature Review of Air Toxics and Particular Matter Research $50,000
Ongoing Support for the Gulf Coast Study on Analyzing Impacts of Climate Change on Transportation Infrastructure $125,000
TOTAL$2,373,400$1,250,000
Water - Wetlands- Vegetation- Wildlife Habitat- Brownfields
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Advancing Methods, Maps, and Tools Used for Decision Support and Impact Analyses for Transportation, Wildlife, & Ecological Systems$160,000$140,000
Synthesis on the Fate and Effects of Chloride from Road Salt Applied to Highways for Deicing $100,000 
Research and Innovation Agreements with US Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service $100,000$425,000
Deer-Vehicle Crash Information and Research Center Support$25,000 
PDA-GPS Road Kill Data Collection System$30,000 
Cooperative Weed Management Areas: Information Dissemination and Feedback$50,000 
Finalize the Protocol and Tool for Corridor Vegetation Inventories$50,000 
Weed Control Alternatives, Costs, and Efficacies$25,000 
Percentage Invasive Species in Reference Sites as a Performance Standard for Wetland Mitigation$125,000 
Effects of Pile Driving on Aquatic Animals$25,000 
Develop New National Highway Institute Training Courses for Wetlands Regulatory Compliance and Mitigation$150,000 
Supporting Peer Exchange and Research Dissemination at Environmental Conferences and Workshops$120,000 
Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction Study $100,000 
Coastal America$12,500 
FY2006 National Mitigation Banking Conference$10,000 
International BMP Stormwater Database $50,000$50,000
International Conference on Ecology and Transportation$85,000 
FHWA Pollutant Loadings Model $150,000
Wildlife Usage of Wetland Mitigation Areas $125,000
Economic and Ecological Benefits of Reduced Mowing (including wildlife) $50,000
Environmental Benefits of Using Recycled Materials on Transportation Projects $30,000
Linking Eco-logical to Planning and Project Development $100,000
TOTAL$1,217,500$1,070,000
Historic Preservation
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Historic Preservation Initiatives$30,000 
Research and Innovation Agreement with Advisory Council on Historic Preservation $170,000$170,000
TOTAL$200,000$170,000
Bicycle / Pedestrian and Health
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Collection of Data on Pedestrian and Bicycle Use and the Extent of Facilities $30,000$70,000
Determining the Effectiveness of Providing Facilities and Programs to Encourage Bicycle and Pedestrian Use $45,000 
Non-Motorized Pilot Study $120,000 
Bicycle/Pedestrian Use and Facility Data$100,000 
TOTAL$295,000$70,000
Noise
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
FHWA Traffic Noise Model Version 3.0 Development $100,000$25,000
FHWA Traffic Noise Model Increased Ldn Capability  $25,000
FHWA Traffic Noise Model/Pavement Validation Study  $110,000
Tire/Pavement Noise Measurements: Temperature Effects Study $30,000
Tire/Pavement Noise Research Consortium Pooled Fund $10,000
TOTAL$100,000$200,000
Outdoor Advertising Control / Realty Program Management
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
The Safety Effects of Electronic Advertising Signs on Driver Attention $100,000$150,000
Identifying Research Questions on the Impact of Outdoor Advertising to the Economy of the Surrounding Area  $50,000
TOTAL$100,000$200,000
Environmental Streamlining and Stewardship
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Evaluation of Transportation Liaison Agreements $75,000 
Research on Project Cost Estimation in Environmental Documents $100,000 
Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining Outreach and Technology Transfer $30,000 
Conservation & Transportation Planning Workshops$80,000 
Leveraging FHWA and State DOT Environmental Research Projects $100,000 
Research and Innovation Agreements with US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service $250,000 
Environmental Vital Few Goal Implementation Activities $1,000,000 
Linking Eco-logical to Planning and Project Development$400,000$400,000
Executive Order 13274 Implementation Activities $400,000
Environmental Competency Building$90,000$355,000
Advancing Innovations in FHWA's Environmental Review Process$505,000$415,000
Assessment of the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program: Evaluating FHWA's Role in the NEPA Process$200,000$240,000
Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining Outreach and Technology Transfer $290,000
TOTAL$2,830,400$2,100,000
Context Sensitive Solutions
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Advancing Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) Implementation: Stakeholder Exchange $50,000$100,000
Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) Clearinghouse $50,000$200,000
CSS University Curriculum - Phase 3 $100,000 
CSS Targeted Technical Assistance$300,000 
CSS National Dialogue $100,000 
CSS Website Development $100,000 
CSS Pooled Fund Study  $200,000
TOTAL$700,000$500,000

Emphasis Areas Related to Planning

Congestion
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Congestion (including Operations and the "National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network") $375,000$650,000
Environmental Benefits and Barriers for Congestion Relief Strategies$500,000 
Exploring Attitudes about Tolling and Congestion Pricing $75,000 
TOTAL$950,000$650,000
Safety Planning
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Safety Planning$70,000$80,000
TOTAL$70,000$80,000
Freight Planning
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Safety Planning$100,000$100,000
TOTAL$100,000$100,000
Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Building on a Foundation of Public Participation and Community Impact Assessment and Incorporating Emerging Issues of Environmental Justice and Visualization for Transportation Planning $50,000$425,000
TOTAL$50,000$425,000
US-Canada and US-Mexico Border Planning
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico Border Planning $50,000$100,000
U.S.-Canada Border Planning: FHWA Share of Northern Border Transportation Pooled-Fund Study$50,000$200,000
FHWA Share of U.S.-Mexico Joint Working Committee (JWC) Pooled Fund Study $100,000
Border Outreach/Coordination and Technical Support $100,000
U.S.-Canada Border Planning: National Roadside Survey Pooled Fund Study $25,000
TOTAL$300,000$400,000
National Security, Defense, and Interstate Planning
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
National Highway System Designation and Product Development  $140,000
Highway System and Corridor Support  $125,000
Interstate Designation Procedures $35,000
TOTAL $300,000
Other Activities that Support State/Local/Tribal Planning Capacity Building
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Other Activities that Support State/Local/Tribal Planning Capacity Building $360,000 
Statewide Transportation Planning Issues $50,000$200,000
Metropolitan Transportation Planning Issues $50,000$200,000
Rural Transportation Planning Issues $25,000$130,000
Examples of SAFETEA-LU Implementation  $275,000
Tribal Transportation Planning Issues $150,000
Finance Issues  $220,000
Planning and Environment Linkages, Additional Support $700,000
Planning and Environment Linkages, Training $100,000
Land Use and Transportation  $150,000
Information Dissemination $200,000
Improved Planning Process/Process Management  $310,000
TOTAL$485,000$2,635,000

Travel Modeling

Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Travel Model Improvement Program Outreach, Knowledge Base and Peer Reviews $290,000$250,000
TOTAL$290,000$250,000
GIS and Spatial Information for Improved Decisionmaking
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
GIS and Spatial Information for Improved Decision-Making $100,000 
GIS Outreach and Promotion  $100,000
Best Practices & Case Studies  $50,000
Training  $75,000
Study of Business Models for GIS & Transportation $50,000
Spatial Integration of Local Agency Inventory Information  $50,000
Development of the Transportation for the Nation Concept  $25,000
TOTAL$100,000$350,000

Program Management and Outreach

GIS and Spatial Information for Improved Decisionmaking
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Information Technology Support $256,180 
Program Management/Outreach$388,270$342,000
Web site support for HEP Research and Programs  $355,000
Financial management support for STEP and planning and environment research and program initiatives  $303,000
TOTAL$644,450$1,000,000

HEP Associate Administrator

HEP Associate Administrator
Research Initiatives FY06 STEP Budget FY07 STEP Budget
Other Planning, Environment and Realty Research $1,108,775$666,491
TOTAL$1,108,775$666,491

CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

Funds from the STEP program contributed to substantial advancements in research and the development of tools to support transportation planning and the environment.

Accomplishments of projects in each emphasis area are highlighted below.

Emphasis Areas Related to Environment

Air Quality and Global Climate Change

The air quality and global climate change emphasis area supported substantial research and steps to improve outreach in response to stakeholder comments. Projects underway or completed include:

Water/Wetlands/Vegetation/Wildlife Habitat/Brownfields

This emphasis area funded extensive research, training development, database development, and a conference to support wildlife, ecosystems, wetlands, water quality, and interagency collaboration.

Historic Preservation

A research and innovation agreement with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is ongoing. The FHWA worked with an ACHP liaison to identify and promote innovative and efficient approaches for conducting the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 process for historic and cultural resources. Approaches include:

Bicycle/Pedestrian and Health

The majority of bicycle-pedestrian and health funds were used to sustain ongoing projects that were short of funding. Two major areas of focus included:

Noise

The noise emphasis area continued development of the FHWA Traffic Noise Model (TNM), developed public outreach information related to tire and pavement noise, and procured additional research and model development for future work.

Outdoor Advertising Control/Realty Program Management

Environmental Streamlining and Stewardship

The FHWA encourages States and resource agencies to establish and meet timelines for all projects with an environmental impact statement (EIS) or environmental assessment (EA) by starting, documenting and promoting good streamlining practices. For example, FHWA reached out to partner agencies to further increase awareness of the importance of linking planning and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. By linking planning and NEPA, FHWA hopes to affect the NEPA process timeline by meeting or exceeding the goals set by the agency. Accomplishments include:

Context Sensitive Solutions

The advancement of context sensitive solutions (CSS) is a major interdisciplinary effort with significant cross-cutting issues and concerns. The FHWA invested in building partnerships and receiving STEP input via the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Transportation Research Board (TRB) CSS Task Force, the www.CSS.org Web site advisory committee, and encouraging STEP contractors to coordinate amongst themselves.

Emphasis Areas Related to Planning

Congestion

Research was conducted to promote activities to support the "National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network" and other initiatives to link operations and planning. Examples of such research include:

Such research supported the advancement of tools for use in the evaluation of operational improvements and strategies in transportation planning by advancing the congestion management process. This research resulted in the development of new tools and programs for understanding, analyzing, and responding to congestion problems. The research was based on stakeholder input and on priorities from the USDOT Secretary's Congestion Initiative. The information was disseminated upon completion.

Safety Planning

Research promoted activities to best determine how safety should be incorporated into the transportation planning process and identify the most effective combination of transportation safety strategies according to local conditions. Examples of such research include:

This research supported improvements to safety data collection and management, potential roles of elected officials in promoting safety goals within transportation planning processes, transportation safety planning on tribal lands, and best practice case studies of successful transportation safety planning efforts. The research was based on stakeholder input and was disseminated upon completion.

Freight Planning

The freight planning emphasis area supported research on how to effectively engage the private sector freight community into the State and metropolitan planning processes; how parameters such as price, travel time, permitting, and user fees affect modal shift; and the cost-benefits analyses of freight projects. In addition, research funds were used to co-sponsor the Freight Transportation Partnership workshop with the AASHTO, which brought stakeholders together to discuss issues in national freight policy and freight professional development.

Research is currently underway to promote activities on the integration of freight into the transportation planning and programming processes at the State and metropolitan levels. Examples of such research include:

Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning

Research is currently underway to assess and communicate the changes in public involvement and community impact assessment practice, increase the awareness of the importance of ensuring civil rights and environmental justice in the planning process, as well as demonstrate to State DOTs and MPOs how to effectively apply visualization to the transportation planning process. Examples of such research include:

U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico Border Planning

This research built on existing research in the border area and addressed the changing situation along the border. The research contained partnerships at the local, State, Federal, and international levels.

In addition, there were several studies in which FHWA and States partnered to conduct research, with 50 percent Federal funds and 50 percent State funds. These studies include Border Congestion and Planning, Border Congestion and Travel Time Study, and low-cost high payoff transportation improvement. The FHWA was part of a group of pooled-fund studies that supported the United States' participation in the border survey component of the National Roadside Survey, the U.S.-Canada Transportation Border Working Group, and the U.S.-Mexico Joint Working Committee.

National Security, Defense, and Interstate Planning

Other Activities that Support State/Local/Tribal Planning Capacity Building

Research is currently underway to provide assistance to decision makers, transportation officials, and staff to resolve complex issues faced when addressing transportation needs in their communities. Research activities under this emphasis area are divided into such areas as SAFETEA-LU implementation, statewide, metropolitan, rural, and tribal transportation planning issues, finance issues, planning and environment linkages, land use and transportation, information dissemination, and improved planning process and process management.

Examples of the research underway include:

Additional research includes developing tools, techniques, procedures, and identifying exemplary planning practices; delivering training, technical assistance, and conducting peer exchanges on planning issues; documenting and deploying interdisciplinary and interagency approaches for addressing human and natural environment in the planning process; performance-based planning; and identifying other issues and interests in the planning processes.

Emphasis Areas Related to Tools that Support Planning and Environment

Travel Modeling

The USDOT Travel Model Improvement Program (TMIP) helps planning agencies improve the techniques they use to inform their decisionmakers on how growth in population and employment, development patterns, and investments in transportation infrastructure are likely to affect travel, congestion, air quality, and quality of life. The TMIP team continues to present papers, presentations, and posters at various conferences of technical interest throughout the year. The TMIP maintains a Web site and holds events to encourage information exchange among professionals in the field. Other accomplishments include:

GIS and Spatial Information for Improved Decisionmaking

The FHWA is supporting workshops and research to share effective practices and encourage the use of geospatial technologies to enhance decisionmaking in planning and project development processes. Initiatives included:

Program Management and Outreach

Program Management and Outreach initiatives included:

Chapter 5: BENEFITS AND LESSONS LEARNED

As the quotes below indicate, STEP has been very favorably received by stakeholders. Following are some of the key bene?ts to date as well as some of the lessons learned.

BENEFITS OF STEP

More communication can lead to better collaboration.

The STEP process has allowed the FHWA to build partnerships within and among Federal, State, and local agencies, industry, and other stakeholders. Many of these partnerships have involved pooled-fund studies, which help encourage collaborative relationships between the FHWA and stakeholders. Through these partnerships and other outreach forums, the FHWA is identifying emerging research topics that meet the needs of a broad range of stakeholders.

Stakeholders want to provide feedback.

The State DOTs are actively engaged in the development and implementation of STEP projects. There is ongoing communication to exchange information regarding research and program initiatives and to share lessons learned about research and effective practices.

LESSONS LEARNED

Projects are generally multi-year initiatives.

STEP funds are intended for use on single-year research activities. However, program managers realized that there were many multi-year research opportunities that could bene?t from STEP funds. Therefore, STEP funds have been used to support both ongoing projects and projects that could be completed in a 1-year timeframe.

Feedback is only as good as its reach.

Direct communication with stakeholders has bolstered the feedback obtained through the STEP Web site. In response to feedback, of?ces are expanding opportunities for stakeholders to participate in STEP. For example, in the planning and ecological area, steps have been taken to increase the diversity of researchers through the use of a broad agency announcement for cooperative transportation research, with the goal to identify innovative work that will reach a wide audience.

Planning ahead can lead to better results.

The FHWA will continue efforts to evaluate stakeholder priorities early in the ?scal year to make certain that the acquisition process for research activities is initiated, and research commences in a given ?scal year.

Appendix A: STEP Emphasis Area Contacts

1. Environment

2. Planning

3. Tools to Support Planning and Environment

4. Program Management and Outreach

Appendix B: Summary of Feedback

Emphasis Areas Related to Environment

Air Quality and Global Climate Change

A total of 110 comments were submitted pertaining to this emphasis area, almost evenly distributed across the three tiers of stakeholders: approximately 40 percent from Federal partners (Tier I), 30 percent from Tier II (State and local), and 30 percent from Tier III (others environmental and transportation stakeholders). This emphasis area, along with others that garner popular interest -- such as bicycle-pedestrian and health -- yielded comments from individual citizens, national associations, researchers, and the private sector.

Many of the research suggestions in this area centered on improved data collection, modeling, and the relationship of congestion to air quality and global climate change. Many stakeholders suggested that it would be helpful to develop air quality monitoring models that could be shared across States or nationally, as different jurisdictions currently spend time and resources developing their own models. Some suggestions were more technical in nature, and included evaluation of the use of new and experimental air quality improvement techniques. Finally, a number of stakeholders suggested that more research is needed into the relationship between air quality and transportation infrastructure, namely vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reductions as trips shift to non-motorized methods.

Tier I and II stakeholders suggested that potential partners might be the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the EPA. Potential State-level partners may include State DOTs, State departments of health, and State wildlife agencies.

Water, Wetlands, Vegetation, Wildlife, Habitat, Brownfields

This emphasis area received a relatively large number of comments (284) distributed somewhat evenly across the three tiers of stakeholders. About one-fifth of stakeholders who submitted comments were Federal partners, and mainly from agencies such as the EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. About half of the comments were submitted by Tier II stakeholders (State and local), and the remaining share were submitted by Tier III stakeholders, which included many researchers and members of the academia.

In many cases, research suggestions were extremely technical in nature. Generally, key topics included the identification and management of invasive species - and as a companion topic, introduction of native vegetation - improved management of wildlife corridors to better understand and reduce the impact of transportation facilities on particular wildlife populations and habitat, and improved cataloging and documenting of wetlands, using field research, GIS, and other spatial tools.

There are current research studies underway that address specific invasive plant species, particular species of wildlife, or local and regional wetland resources. In many cases, existing studies may produce results that can be synthesized and shared across jurisdictions to improve overall understanding of the relationship between transportation and the environment.

While many State DOTs and other State agencies are currently funding their own research in this emphasis area, some stakeholders suggested that potential Federal partners can include the EPA, the Western Transportation Institute, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Historic Preservation

A total of eight comments were submitted on the historic preservation emphasis area, with nearly all comments submitted by State government (Tier II) stakeholders. One private sector representative and one foundation representative each submitted comments. Research suggestions include the introduction of historic preservation earlier in the transportation planning process, and the criteria for historic eligibility. Additional suggested research topics include historic bridge preservation, vibration impact testing, and the identification and evaluation of linear historic resources, such as roads, canals, trails, and railroads.

Several research projects and activities are already underway, including a project supported by PennDOT's cultural resource management section on historic preservation and public involvement, studies about deformation and subsurface deformation caused by vibration, and a Florida Division of Historical Resources effort to develop guidelines to identify and evaluate linear historic resources.

Very few suggestions for potential funding or other resources were provided, though stakeholders did suggest the use of transportation enhancement (TE) funds and partnerships with such Federal agencies as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and various State historic preservation offices.

Bicycle, Pedestrian and Health

A total of 57 comments were submitted in this emphasis area. Very few Federal partners (Tier I stakeholders) submitted comments in this area - only 2 percent of total comments submitted. Tier II stakeholders, which include State and local governments, submitted about one-third (35 percent) of comments. The remaining two-thirds of the comments were submitted by Tier III stakeholders, including many bicycle and pedestrian advocates, individual citizens, local committees, and national associations.

Research suggestions from State and local governments focused on safety issues associated with encouraging bicycling and pedestrian activity. Other suggestions recommended the additional study of the links between non-motorized transportation and health, air quality, and congestion. Tier III stakeholders supported these suggestions, and also recommended improvements in data collection and surveying, as well as, studying the relationship between bicycle and pedestrian facilities and increased use of those facilities. Several stakeholders supported the possible research suggestions laid out in the STEP implementation strategy.

There are current research activities in this area at the local level, pooled-fund studies at the State level, and a TRB committee that has identified more than 10 bicycle and pedestrian research topics. In terms of other funding sources, some stakeholders suggested that in addition to State DOTs, State departments of health might be valuable partners. Some stakeholders noted that funding in this area is very limited, and that the range of projects could benefit from increased funding.

Noise

A total of 66 comments were received in the area of noise, with a small share (6 percent) from Tier I (Federal) stakeholders. One-third of the comments were received from Tier II (State and local government) stakeholders, and the remaining share was submitted by Tier III stakeholders, including members of the private sector (a total of 33 percent), researchers, individual citizens, and others.

Many of the suggestions submitted to this emphasis area centered on improvement of the Traffic Noise Model (TNM) and research into experimental materials that can reduce highway noise. Other suggestions included specific TNM improvements related to pavement and tire types, assumptions about acceptable noise levels, and the integration of GIS and other data into the system. Stakeholders throughout the country also noted the importance of researching noise compatible land use planning.

Many stakeholders noted individual State DOT research efforts to study the relationship between pavement type and noise levels, as well as research into experimental noise abatement measures, including vegetation and environmentally friendly barriers. A significant number of stakeholders mentioned that noise research efforts could be undertaken through a pooled-fund study supported by several State DOTs, as States would be primary beneficiaries of such research.

Outdoor Advertising Control/Realty Program Management

A total of four comments were submitted to the emphasis area, with two comments coming from stakeholders at the State level (Tier II), one of the comments coming from a representative of a national association (Tier III), and one comment coming from a member of the research and academic community (Tier III).

One potential line of research includes studying the impact of roadside and driver distraction. One agency cites studying the potential negative economic impact of roadside distractions, while another suggests studying the impact of electronic billboards and other new technolo-gies. Other potential lines of research include looking at revising CFR on outdoor advertising, alternative signage systems, and vegetation control programs.

No organizations cited current or planned research in this area, or other possible funding sources related to research activities in this emphasis.

Environmental Streamlining and Stewardship

A total of 32 comments were submitted on this emphasis area, with one-third of those comments coming from Tier I (Federal) stakeholders, and one-fourth coming from Tier II (State and local) stakeholders.

Several potential lines of research were suggested, including the management of invasive species along highway rights-of-way or corridors, integrated ecosystems approaches to developing infrastructure projects (see "Eco-Logical" publication), and interagency coordination between resources agencies. Suggestions included identification of leadership characteristics in agency staff and strategies to foster improved collaboration.

Other suggested lines of research focused on the interagency liaison program between the FHWA and the U.S. Forest Service and other topics. Current or planned research includes a pilot project in Montana's State Highway 83 that relates to an interagency planning an infrastructure enhancement process, continued use of the FHWA liaison program, and the Oregon Bridge Delivery Program.

Additional research includes the Ohio University Department of Environment and Plant Biology work in Wayne National Forest on invasive species control.

Context Sensitive Solutions

A total of 36 comments were submitted concerning this emphasis area, with nearly half of those comments coming from Tier III stakeholders affiliated with the research and academic community. Several potential lines of research were suggested, some suggestions having national significance or wide-ranging impacts, such as cost-benefit analyses of context sensitive solutions (CSS), the development of quantitative indicators of CSS success, and CSS challenges related to legacy projects, namely, retrofitting existing non-CSS projects.

Other suggested lines of research focused on tree canopies, the size of bridge projects, the role of public participation in CSS, and other topics. Current or planned research includes tree canopy, urban tree, and shading studies; passing sight distance research; performance measurement of CSS and public involvement; "Main Street" design standards; and the "Complete Streets" program work with the League of American Bicyclists.

Suggested potential funding sources or resource partners in the area of CSS include the Urban Land Institute, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Forest Service, Arbor Day Foundation, the FHWA National Scenic Byway Program, or other pooled-fund studies. Additional suggestions for potential funding sources include local DOTs, the NSF, native plant societies, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Casey Tree Foundation, Smart Growth America, the EPA Green Highways Initiative, the CSS pooled research fund, the National Advertising Council, the Centers for Disease Control, and other social justice foundations such as the Mott, Rockefeller, and Ford foundations.

Emphasis Areas Related to Planning

Congestion

A total of 23 comments were submitted to this emphasis area, primarily from Tier III stakeholders, but also from several Tier I and II individuals/entities. About one fourth of comments were submitted by stakeholders with some other affiliation, and about one-fifth by those affiliated with national associations.

Several potential lines of research were suggested. Some of these suggestions may have national significance or wide-ranging impacts, such as studying the role that sensible land use planning can play in reducing congestion, identifying best practices, developing and delivering training, tools, and technical assistance, and evaluating the overall effectiveness, including the economic benefits and costs of transportation demand management processes (TDM). Other suggested lines of research focused on car sharing, using GPS-enabled cell phones to collect travel data, telecommuting impacts on congestion, parking policies and management, pollution and public health, congestion pricing, and developing and communicating quantifiable objectives and outcome expectations for road projects.

Current or planned research includes a three-phase project in Maryland partnered with Morgan State University on community concerns about congestion and pollution. Other existing research includes statewide TDM evaluation in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Georgia, Washington, Florida, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, a High Occupancy Tolls (HOT) pooled-fund study, the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida's work on Incorporating TDM into the Land Development Process, the NYSDOT research on ITS and congestion, and the FDOT's "Conserve by Bike" research.

Suggested potential funding sources or entities that may have helpful resources in the area of congestion include the National Center for Transit Research, the Association for Commuter Transportation, APTA, NARC, and the National League of Cities, as well as, the States referenced above.

Safety Planning

The safety planning emphasis area received a total of 15 comments, with two from Federal (Tier I) stakeholders, five from state (Tier II) stakeholders, and the remainder from a variety of other sources, including representatives of the private sector.

Tier I stakeholders suggested that STEP funds be used to develop tools, techniques, training, and procedures for improved safety planning, as well as examining ways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Several stakeholders in other tiers also recommended standardizing data collection on wildlife-vehicle collisions and safety issues associated with roadkill. Additional research suggestions focus on uniform and universal highway electronic signage, emergency response for the mobility impaired, improving the standardization, collection, and sharing of safety-related data, issues related to transportation infrastructure design and bicycle and pedestrian safety, and the integration of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan in TIPs and STIPs.

There is limited existing research in these areas. A sample of current research activities includes Washington State DOT's emergency planning best practices study, and the Colorado DOT and the Western Transportation Institute's independent road kill data collection efforts and research studies. Stakeholders did not suggest any potential funding sources or partners, but noted that the expected funding level for this emphasis area is very low.

Freight Planning

A total of seven comments were submitted in the area of freight, with a large share of comments submitted by Tier II stakeholders, specifically, State governments. About one-third of comments were submitted by Tier I stakeholders (Federal partners). Stakeholders in Tier III submitted remaining feedback. Suggestions for the lines of research that should be pursued in this emphasis area include freight logistics, standardization of freight data, improved freight modeling using econometric input-output matrices, and the relationship between improved freight planning and shifts from highway to rail infrastructure. Stakeholders also encouraged the use and sharing of best practices, capacity building resources, such as the Talking Freight series, the FHWA freight "listserv," and the freight and operations Web site, and research into how MPOs can become more involved in freight transportation security.

Current or planned research in this area includes a study of commercial vehicle operator user fees on freight travel patterns and the development of an improved freight econometric model in Oregon. Stakeholders submitting feedback in this area did not suggest any potential funding sources or other resources.

Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning

A total of 10 comments were submitted to the emphasis area, with four comments from Tier I (Federal) stakeholders, two comments from Tier II (State government) stakeholders, and four comments from Tier III stakeholders, including an individual citizen, representatives of the private sector, research and academia, and some other category.

Several potential lines of research were suggested, including systems models that facilitate planning, support for training and information dissemination efforts aimed at informing the public about new SAFETEA-LU provisions. Other research suggestions included measuring success through capacity building, reaching out to people with disabilities, and supporting the development of marketing materials on roles and responsibilities of the public in development and implementation of transportation projects. Research suggestions related to environmental justice include developing approaches to estimate through scenarios the potential geographic distribution of pollution and hot spots, providing communities with detailed analyses of existing air and noise pollution impacts, and evaluating the effectiveness of collaborative processes in NEPA reviews of transportation projects.

No organizations cited current or planned research in this area, but one stakeholder noted that PolicyLink has contracted most research on equitable development. Suggestions for potential resources or funding sources included the collaborative Science and Technology Network for Sustainability, the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, NCHRP, and AASHTO.

U.S-Canada and U.S-Mexico Border Planning

A total of seven comments were submitted. Three comments were submitted by Federal partners (Tier I), two from State and local representatives (Tier II), and two from Tier III stakeholders - one researcher and one representative from a national organization.

Tier I stakeholders suggested research into border area congestion, border area weeds and invasive species control, and border area transportation information flows. Research suggestions from other tiers of stakeholders include air quality monitoring at border areas to address high levels of freight traffic, border region economics related to transportation infrastructure development, and invasive species control.

There is some current or planned research in this area, including an automated international trade data system to manage border area transportation data and research studies on invasive plants. Possible suggested funding sources related to invasive species include the USGS and the USDA. One stakeholder suggested that the U.S. Department of Commerce could be a potential source of funds to study border region economic and transportation infrastructure development.

National Security, Defense, and Interstate Planning

A total of three comments were submitted to this emphasis area, two from State governments (Tier II) and one from a representative of a national association (Tier III). One Tier II stakeholder suggested that STEP funds be used to examine the economic effects of an Interstate designation, and how that designation affects traffic volumes. A similar study was completed on I-86 in Western New York. The other Tier II stakeholder had no research suggestions, but noted that he considered research in this emphasis area a lower priority than research activities in other emphasis areas. The Tier III stakeholder suggested examining the role that TDM, tools, resources, programs and activities can play in emergency planning and business continuity in order to help national and local officials plan and implement community preparedness and response efforts. The stakeholder noted that the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) has been researching available programs and the linkages between emergency preparedness and TDM. THe ACT organization is a potential resource partner.

Other Activities that Support State/Local/Tribal Planning Capacity Building

A total of 21 comments were submitted to this emphasis area, more than half from Tier III stakeholders. Federal partners (Tier I) submitted one-fourth of comments, and State and local governments submitted 15 percent of comments. Many of the research suggestions in this area centered on compliance with planning provisions in SAFETEA-LU, including improved coordination with other plan, such as state wildlife action, local and regional watershed, land use and economic plans. Other suggestions include integrating travel demand management policies and programs into long-range planning. Stakeholders specifically suggested that STEP funds be used to develop topical tools, techniques, best practices, trainings and peer exchanges for planners to address Federal Lands Highway issues and conflicts, and to support existing Federal planning capacity building programs.

Current research in this area includes the Transportation Planning Capacity Building program, the PECAS model that is designed to integrate land use and transportation planning, Wisconsin DOT and EPA's Region 5 research into the examination of secondary highway impacts, and the Center for Urban Transportation Research work on the incorporation of TDM and land development. Additional work includes the many MPOs that are currently building or refining models to incorporate land use and economic data into the transportation planning process.

Few suggestions for potential funding sources were received, but stakeholders did note that groups could pool funds to support research efforts. Such groups may include the Association for Commuter Transportation, the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) at the University of South Florida and other university transportation centers, and State DOTs. Other potential sources included the Federal Lands Highways Coordinated Technology Implementation Program and MPOs.

Emphasis Areas Related to Tools to Support Planning and Environment

Travel Modeling

A total of 18 comments were submitted to this emphasis area, with about one-third of comments coming from stakeholders unaffiliated with the organization types provided on the feedback form. Stakeholders with Federal affiliation submitted about one-fifth of the comments.

Several potential lines of research were suggested. Some of these suggestions may have national significance or wide-ranging impacts, such as qualitative and quantitative research on induced demand associated with increased roadway capacity and related environmental impacts, including air quality and pollution. Also included is national-level VMT impact of travel demand management strategies, including congestion and air quality impacts. Other suggested lines of research focused on the impact of gasoline prices on travel demand and land use, traffic queuing modeling, and continuation and expansion of the Travel Model Improvement Program (TMIP), including related technical assistance and knowledge transfer. Current or planned research in this area includes a Caltrans multi-day household survey of long trips using diaries and GPS location recorders, emissions research supported by EPA and the USDOT, and the Florida DOT bicycle-pedestrian demand modeling research.

Suggested potential funding sources in this area include the development of a pooled-fund study with AASHTO, AMPO, NARC and other stakeholders. Overall, stakeholders interested in this emphasis area provided very few suggestions for potential funding sources or other partner resources.

GIS and Spatial Information for Improved Decisionmaking

Stakeholders submitted a total of 23 comments to this emphasis area. Federal partners (Tier I stakeholders) submitted 17 percent (four comments), and Tier II stakeholders submitted nearly 40 percent of the comments. The remainder of comments were submitted by Tier III stakeholders, including researchers, private sector and national association representatives, and others.

Tier I stakeholders suggested similar research activities centering on data collection and information sharing, including technical standards for the collection and sharing of data, specifically to aid in SAFETEA-LU compliance. Specific suggestions include sharing and using Federal Lands Highway inventory data for forest highways, refuge roads and park roads, and sharing and analyzing data from radio-telemetry, aerial photography, and ground reconnaissance. Research suggestions from other tiers of stakeholders include integrating space development and economic models, creating a nationwide tool based on Florida's ETDM, streamlining and reducing the cost of data collection and development of GIS databases, and using hyperspectral imagery and LIDAR for streamlining wetlands and habitat delineation. Other comments recommend studying the use of GIS for emissions modeling for rural ozone issues, the use of raster databases in transportation planning, and creation of a national GIS-based early warning system for invasive species. Many stakeholders noted that funds are needed to streamline and improve technical requirements for data sharing, and creation of standards for GIS layers that should be used in regional and local planning.

There is some current or planned research in this area, including efforts to identify and streamline the availability of layers to State DOTs, the Center for Transportation and the Environment, the Western Transportation Institute, the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation, and the TRB Ecology and Transportation Task Force, which are all working in this area. Utah is looking at rural ozone issues and emissions models, and the Center for Research in Watershed Resources (CRWR) from the University of Texas at Austin and the NW Indian Fisheries Commission - Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Inventory and Assessment Program (SSHIAP) are improving the use of GIS in habitat modeling.

Possible suggested funding sources related to this emphasis area include GIS companies such as ESRI, Trimble, and Garmin, pooled-fund studies, NCHRP, TRB, AASHTO, NISC, FICMNEW, Office of Homeland Security, Ag & Markets, Forrest Products Association, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and Project Action--a joint venture of the FTA and Easter Seals.

Program Management and Outreach

Stakeholders made general comments about the STEP program both through feedback forms related to a particular emphasis area, and by submitting feedback to general categories. Many stakeholders supported the STEP program in general and its efforts to better understand the links between planning and the environment. Several stakeholders indicated that they appreciated the opportunity to submit feedback and the role of stakeholders' suggestions in program implementation. Many stakeholders indicated that funding levels could be increased in several emphasis areas, namely noise, bicycles and pedestrians and health.

With regard to potential funding sources or other partners, many stakeholders highlighted key Federal agencies that focus on environmental issues, such as the EPA, and the U.S. Fish and Fish and Wildlife. Partnering with other agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Centers for Disease Control and other non-traditional partners was also suggested. Stakeholders also noted the value in pooled-fund studies among State DOTs and the potential to receive funding for particular projects through national foundations, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others.

Updated: 08/21/2014
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000